Garden Club holds annual tour, elects new officers

jasmine_ladySUBMITTED BY THE BOCA GRANDE GARDEN CLUB – Beautiful Boca Grande sunshine and exceptionally gorgeous gardens made last Wednesday’s Annual Garden Tour of the Boca Grande Garden Club a very special treat for the Club’s members. Co-chairs Carol Forrester and Peggy Saewert arranged a day showcasing one breathtaking vista after another.


This year’s tour focused on the north end of the island and featured the gardens of the Nicholas, Heldrich, Westerfield and Simmons families.

The Garden Club is so grateful to all of them for sharing their sensational gardens and homes. Each is unique, but all share having thriving tropical plantings in beautiful settings.

Ginny and Peter Nicholas’ garden set on 4.5 acres can really be considered a park filled with many gardens.  The seaside garden of their charmingly titled Mermaid House features grasses and palms enhancing the breathtaking Gulf views; while on the bay side of the house, the gardens include flowering bougainvillea and hibiscus in addition to many varieties of palms and other drought-tolerant trees and bushes.

The range of textures, heights and shades of green throughout the Nicholas’ gardens make a stimulating, interesting landscape in all directions.  Large, shaded, grassy expanses in every garden inspire feelings of peaceful tranquility making all want to linger.

The adjacent home of Sue and John Heldrich, set in a garden of old growth, large carrotwood trees and tall palms with splashes of color from pink oleander and hibiscus, yellow lantana and allamanda, and red powderpuff, made another lovely oasis.

In addition to their gardens, the Heldrich’s kindly opened their spectacular home to the tour. Built in 1990, and gutted and renovated in 2013, with designs from the original architect, Randy Williamson, the light-filled house features dramatic Gulf views from large expanses of windows in the vaulted space.

Their modern, serenely white decor included three, large, sweet great Pyrenees dogs lolling on the floor and sofas!

Nearby, Marlissa and John Westerfield welcomed the Garden Club to their recently completed beautiful home and gardens at the foot of a long lagoon. Designed by Williamson Hinkle Architects, their inviting home is set up high and surrounded by graceful, sloping gardens designed by Pat Trefz. The rooms of the house enjoy lovely views of the gardens and lagoon and are situated to look down their easement path to the Gulf as well.

In addition to many palms, their gardens feature black olive trees, schefflera, podocarpus and Hong Kong orchid trees with more bright colors from flourishing pink and purple pentas and bougainvillea just beginning to climb the pergola. Perhaps the most striking feature of the Westerfield’s home is their clever, terraced garden leading down to the lagoon.

On the far north point of the island, Linda and Randy Simmons welcomed us to their beautiful home, Floriblanca, overlooking Gasparilla Pass. Fittingly, white flowers grow abundantly in their garden, including jasmine, magnolia, impatiens and iris. The lush, invitingly green front gardens lead onto a Turkish red stoned walk under the house to the poolside gardens where more splashes of red in the flowers enliven the garden, then on to the waterside gazebo where welcome shade and cool breezes made all linger to enjoy the sparkling view.

The Simmons graciously lent their pool area and gazebo for our Tea, where the hospitality committee, led by Co-chairs Shelly Corl, Sandy Hemm and Lolo Weir, outdid themselves serving refreshing, irresistible root beer floats and assorted cookies and treats.

In addition to our homeowner hosts and hostesses, 30 members of the Garden Club volunteered as docents for the Tour, sharing details on the plantings, history and design of the homes and gardens we visited.

What a beautiful day for the Garden Club – it even seemed that all of Gasparilla Road was in colorful bloom leading us to and from the spectacular gardens!

In other garden club news, new officers were installed and departing board members thanked at the last meeting for the season of the Boca Grande Garden Club on April 1. Outgoing President Barbara Stirling thanked First Vice President Clare Doyle, Second Vice President Ann Hill, Treasurer Mary Anne Hooker, Assistant Treasurer Nora Lea Reefe, Secretary Kitty Cross and Assistant Secretary Sharon Cruz, for all their contributions to the Club during her term, presenting each with a beautiful orchid.

Barbara then installed the new board for 2015-17. Members include President Clare Doyle, First Vice President Peggy Saewert, Second Vice President Jen Hanna, Treasurer Mary Anne Hooker, Assistant Treasurer Pam McMillin, Secretary Anne Bowman and Assistant Secretary Sharon Cruz. Each was given a long-stemmed rose as she accepted the oath of office.

Clare’s first act as president was to lead the Club in thanking Barbara for her leadership, service and devotion to the Garden Club over the last two years, presenting her with a bouquet of roses and a tulip-covered tray, a memento recognizing the trip Barbara led the Garden Club on to Holland last spring.

The new board will be holding its annual planning meeting for next season soon, and would like to remind all current members and anyone interested in joining the Garden Club as a new member that dues for next season in the amount of $60 should be paid by June 1 to ensure a place in the Club next year.

For more information, please contact Pam McMillin at pammcmillin@me.com.

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